“What is your name?” bellowed an angry voice behind the darkened veil that were Grayne’s eyelids. The words pierced the darkness of the young man’s mind like a jagged-edge sword. The angry voice cracked his skull and forced him back to consciousness. One eye opened slowly letting in the flickering light of a dying lantern that danced in a breeze he could not feel. The wounded soldier’s hands were shackled by cold metal cuffs to the wall behind him, as were his feet. His battered form was suspended helplessly from a stone wall like a flayed pig in a storefront window.
Only eighteen years old, Grayne was a man in the prime of his life and at the peak of physical condition. His short chestnut hair was cut in an effective military style, but today it was chaotically disheveled and soaked with dried blood. His well-muscled body, lean and without any signs of fat was now covered with open wounds. His larger than average nose was broken and bloody as was his weather-beaten face, covered in three days growth of brown facial hair. The scent of his own blood was all he could smell.
Ordinarily, the young man was not what one would call a pretty-boy. However, the girls who enjoyed a more rugged man often would give him an extra smile.
No one would smile at his bedraggled form now.
He struggled to remember the details of the past day. He knew he was a soldier. He knew his name was Grayne. He knew he was injured badly, but he didn’t need memory to realize that fact. The constant stream of pain that was pulsating, throbbing, and slicing from different parts of his body was a constant reminder of the frailty of his form.
“Where am I?” he asked as he took in his surroundings with a single eye that was almost swollen shut. The other eye was not sending any information to his bleary mind, and it hurt whether it was opened or closed. The pain mixed into a confusing stew of open wounds that was his broken body. There was a man before him asking him questions, but Grayne ignored him, instead scanning instead his surroundings. He saw he was in a circular stone room and immediately he assumed he was in a tower in a keep or castle. Light illuminated the room only by lanterns. There were no windows in the tower and Grayne had no idea if it was night or day.
A booted foot slammed into his stomach returning his attention to his captor. Blood and spit dribbled from his mouth. “I ask the questions! What is your name?” demanded his hook-nosed captor. Grayne closed his eyes as he grimaced against the pain. When he opened them again, the dancing light of the waning lantern showed the darkened stone room and dimly revealed the shadowy form of his abuser. The man wore the plate armor of a knight, but with no helm. Grayne could see a sharp hook nose leaning above his mustache and he made note of the man’s thick unruly growth of black facial hair. His captor’s hair was black as coal and his skin was freckled from the sun, but had a paleness that indicated he had not felt extended periods of sunlight in many years.
Any trace of defiance slipped from him along with the saliva and blood that trickled from his mouth. “My name is…,” he said struggling. “My name is Grayne,” he moaned. He had not the sense of mind to remember his training or he would have recalled the first rule of being a captive. Never give your name.
“Good,” the hook-nosed knight said. “What is your rank?
“I…I’m just a soldier.”
A fist slammed into his already bloody face. Pain exploded from his nose and Grayne’s consciousness faded for a moment. He awoke before his torturer spoke. “You expect me to believe that a simple soldier was sent behind enemy lines and managed to kill a high ranking officer?”
“I’m…” he struggled to speak as he swallowed some of his own blood. “I’m sneaky.”
His torturer seethed. “You’re trying my patience. I know what you want. You want me to kill you. By the Seven, I’m not going to do that!” He caught his breath and turned away. In a whisper he said, “Not yet.”
“You’re smarter than you look,” Grayne groaned matter-of-factly without the hint of a smile. His eye scanned the room, looking for something he could use to escape, or with which to kill himself.
“Do you know whom you killed?” asked his captor turning back to him.
“No,” answered Grayne honestly. He couldn’t remember much of the man. He knew he was a dandy, a weaker, womanish man, but could not recall his name.
“His name is Croget,” said the torturer, turning away.
“Was,” corrected the victim.
Crack! A forceful blast to his skull forced the young man into blessed darkness.
The cruel knight grabbed Grayne’s short blood-caked brown hair and whispered into the young man’s unconscious ear. “Croget was a beautiful man, and you will say his name. By the end, you will say his name. Only then will I grant you death.”